Oklahoma to use nitrogen gas to execute death row inmates

Oklahoma will resume executions after 3-year hold — with nitrogen gas

Oklahoma has had one of the busiest death chambers in the us, but hasn't carried out an execution since 2015 after a series of mishaps, including a botched lethal injection in 2014 that left an inmate writhing on the gurney and drug mix-ups in which the wrong lethal drugs were delivered to the prison for executions.

DOC Director Joe Allbaugh said Wednesday that many death row inmates have been employing various methods, including dehydrating themselves, leading up to their executions that ensure challenges for the medical staff attempting lethal injection. The change comes after issues locating the drugs used for the lethal injection process.

Oklahoma and other states haven't been able to get the drugs required for lethal injections amid opposition from drugmakers to having their products used in executions.

State law also allows officials to opt for firing squads or the electric chair in executions.

Hunter's office said that making nitrogen gas the state's primary method of execution, rather than a backup, was a result of the state's inability to obtain lethal injection drugs.

The DOC is working to develop a protocol and procedures for future executions. He later died in the death chamber of a heart attack.

At the news conference in Oklahoma on Wednesday, officials did not discuss the use of sedatives, but said they had not yet determined a protocol in which to carry out executions with nitrogen.

Oklahoma's last executions drew scrutiny in the state and nationwide.

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"As state leaders, it is our duty to find an effective and humane manner that satisfies both the Constitution and the court system", Hunter said.

In 2014, Oklahoma drew intense scrutiny for its death-penalty procedures after the execution of Clayton Lockett gained global attention.

Death penalty opponents are already expressing skepticism about the use of nitrogen and demanding that Oklahoma be transparent as it preps a new protocol.

Now states are being forced to use new drug cocktails, scramble to restock their stores of drugs and review their lethal injection policies.

Warner's execution, which was scheduled to occur the same night as Lockett's, was ultimately postponed until the following January.

It led to the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections admitting defeat, in an increasingly desperate search.

A financial analysis prepared for state legislatures before Oklahoma passed the nitrogen gas option in 2015 described the potential costs as "minimal" and said the process would require only a gas mask and a container of nitrogen.

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